Novel passive detection approach reveals low breeding season survival and apparent lactation cost in a critically endangered cave bat
journal contributionposted on 26.05.2022, 06:06 authored by Emmi van HartenEmmi van Harten, R Lawrence, LF Lumsden, T Reardon, TAA Prowse
Capture-mark-recapture/resight (CMR) methods are used for survival-rate studies, yet are often limited by small sample sizes. Advances in passive integrated transponder (PIT) technology have enabled passive detection or ‘resight’ of marked individuals using large antennas with greater read-ranges than previously possible. We used passively-detected resight data and CMR models to study survival rates of the southern bent-winged bat Miniopterus orianae bassanii, a critically endangered, cave-dwelling bat. Over three years, we used PIT-tagging to monitor 2966 individuals at the species’ largest breeding aggregation, using daily detection data (> 1.6 million detections) to estimate seasonal survival probabilities, structured by age, sex and reproductive status, and parameterise population projection matrices. This has hitherto been impossible using traditional CMR methods due to disturbance risk and low recapture rates. Bats exhibited lowest apparent seasonal survival over summer and autumn, particularly for reproductive females in summer (when lactating) and juveniles in autumn (after weaning), and high survival in winter. Lowest survival rates coincided with severe drought in summer–autumn 2016, suggesting that dry conditions affect population viability. Under all likely demographic assumptions, population projection matrices suggested the population is in deterministic decline, requiring urgent action to reduce extinction risk. Passively-collected resight data can now be used in combination with CMR models to provide extensive, robust information for targeted wildlife population management.